Protests rock Xinjiang, Beijing after deadly fire
The fire went viral on social media because netizens believe the deaths were due, in part, to a partial lockdown of the building over COVID-19 concerns.
November 26, 2022 1:59pm
Updated: November 28, 2022 9:25am
Public anger over China’s draconian “zero-COVID” policy is boiling over in cities after a deadly fire in western Xinjiang province.
Crowds chanting “End the lockdown!” formed on Friday night in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital city after a deadly fire in a high-rise building there killed 10 the night before, reports Reuters citing videos circulating on Chinese social media.
The incident went viral on social media because netizens believe the deaths were due, in part, to a partial lockdown of the building over COVID-19 concerns. The 4 million residents of Xinjiang have been subject to some of the country’s harshest lockdowns, with residents barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.
Some of the videos showed people in a plaza singing China’s national anthem, emphasizing one line that says, “Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves.”
The deadly Xinjiang fire may have also sparked action in the capital of Beijing 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles) away. Some lockdown residents have mobilized small-scale protests or confronted local officials and found success ending lockdowns early.
"The Urumqi fire got everyone in the country upset," Sean Li, a resident in Beijing, told Reuters.
By Saturday evening, at least ten residential compounds in Beijing lifted lockdowns before their announced end-date due to residents’ complaints, according to a tally by Reuters.
Beijing defends President Xi Jinping’s signature zero-COVID police as both lifesaving and necessary to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. The Chinese leader was appointed to an unprecedented third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in October.
China has been accused of conducted a genocide of Xinjiang provinces Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. Beijing contends they are being given job training.